August 17, 2010 09:21:32am
FloydFest 9 - After Action Report (For anyone who cares)
Apologies for the shameless bump (sorta). Wanted to add a few pictures.
Okay, it's about time I got down to the details of what was a fantastic music festival experience. I have been accused of being long winded, providing too much detail, blah, blah, blah, and this recap will be no exception.
Drove to Winston-Salem to spend the night with friends. I did not have an on-site parking pass this year and wanted to get up to the site and see if I could get in early and set up my camp area. I opted for the scenic route and wound my way up through Mount Airy along Squirrel Spur Road until it ran into the Blue Ridge Parkway at Meadows of Dan. (Yeah I know, superfluous detail, I don't care, it's my post). There is a really cool overlook that looks east down into one of the many valleys in the Blue Ridge - I stopped again this year and took a bunch of pictures. It was quite the enjoyable drive - the driver of every car I passed coming the other direction and I exchanged waves - I could really get used to living in an area like that.
Anyway, I got up to the fest site at about 7:30 AM (gates opened at 8:00 AM for on site folks, noon for the procrastinators who didn't get their passes early enough). I had a buddy already there who was volunteering and had site access. We met out on the Parkway, transferred my gear to his car, went and parked my car in the off site area and proceeded to the fest site. They waved us through, we dropped of my gear, and I set up my tent. Phase I of the mission accomplished. I had my first beer of the fest at 9:30 AM. It had been smuggled in, but that is just a rumor.
Then it was a couple of hours of wandering around dropping in on all the vendor tents to see what was going on. Pretty much the same as last year, although the number of vendors looked like it was up about a third. There was a wide variety of artwork and craft type stuff. And of course a spectrum of utility. The dude selling the organic herbal soaps clearly never used any of his products, but was doing a brisk business nonetheless.
There was an on-site Farmer's Market that of course pulled me right in. They had fresh fruits and veggies and they bartered. Most of the vendors bartered between themselves, the Farmer's market guys bartered with everyone - I thought that was pretty cool. FWIW, they had the best lemonade on site - everyone else was selling their lemonade for $5 a 24 oz cup, these guys sold for $3 and were sold out every day.
Pretty standard fare for the rest of the vendors - wide appeal from the organic vegan to the lard-assed carnivore couch potato.
The weather started off perfect - it was 73 when I got up to the site, but the weather system that parked on top of us brought highs in the mid 90s each day. About 15 degrees higher than normal for the elevation and time of year. It was pretty easy to get sapped by early afternoon if you weren't staying hydrated. Beer is not hydration in case you were wondering.
Okay, on to the reason why we were all there - the music. The first band up were the Rockridge Brothers. Outstanding, old time bluegrass with a big ass doghouse double bass, fiddle, Martin dreadnought and a banjo player gathered around a condenser mic. All the more impressive given they were from Stockholm, Sweden. I was talking with the fiddle player after their set complimenting him on a great kick-off to the weekend - there was a TV team from Sweden there and this incredibly gorgeous blonde (I believe there is a Swedish law that requires ugly babies to be drowned at birth) stuck a camera in my face and asked me what I thought. I paused and offered "These guys were outstanding. I don't what else to say other than they sounded "real", like they had just stepped off a porch somewhere in the hills of Tennessee or North Carolina." I hope that translates well in Swedish.
Next up was the Packaway Handle Band - bluegrass with a tinge of rock and roll and some rather unusual covers. First time I had seen a left handed mandolin player.
Rising Appalachia was next. I won't be seeing them next year if they are at FloydFest 10. They were very talented, but as soon as I read "genre-bending force of sound that uses lyrical prowess and diverse artistic collaborations to defy cultural cliches and ignite a musical revolution" I went "Hmmmmmmmmmmm?" After a couple of songs I had to leave - I'm okay with a band being inspired and motivated by events to write music addressing various social injustices, but the militant balthering between songs was an instant turn-off. Shit like, "We must unite in a one-world community of music and love or we will all be consumed by the beast" delivered by some shrilly drama queen was over the top. Fine, I didn't care for them - moving on.
Next was the first of several deconflictions that had to get done - The Jesse Chong Band overlapped with Big Daddy Love and Cornmeal. I caught half of Big Daddy Love - an electric banjo made these guys worth it, all of Jesse Chong (excellent cover of Scarlet Begonias after a great original set that blew up the Pink Floyd Garden Stage) and most of Cornmeal.
Then it was off to the Dreaming Creek Main Stage to catch Galactic with Corey Henry of the Rebirth Brass Band from N'awlins. Damn - that was a good, high energy set. They were jumoing around so much all of my pictures were out of focus. Okay, that and it was dark and I had been in the Beer garden too long....
Johnson's Crossroad (old time bluegrass) and Boulder Acoustic Society rounded out the day.
At 1:00 AM we headed down the hill to the fire pit and had a giant drum circle with Thunderdrums. After we all scratched the "I want to pretend to be an aborigine and dance around the bonfire like I am 16 years old" itch, we limped back up the hill and stumbled into our tents regretting the decision. It cooled down to 85 overnight.
Friday started where Thursday left off, Boulder Acoustic Society on the Main Stage, follwed by Dangermuffin - these guys were a load of fun and injected a lot of energy into the late morning crowd. Then the Holy Ghost Tent Revival took over and delivered a huge Main Stage set - kids were dropping like flies in the heat - it got up to 95 and the humidity was around 20% so if you weren't paying attention to staying hydrated you could find yourself in a world of hurt. The Med tent was full by 2:00 PM every day.
The Mantras followed with a killer set on the Main Stage.http://www.archive.org/details/themantras2010-07-23.flac16
Global Village set:http://www.archive.org/details/themantras2010-07-24
One of the hidden gems of FloydFest is their Virginia Folklife's Workshop Porch series. It's a small, intimate stage, usually unplugged and they pull members from the bands at the fest for a sit down session that is half Q&A and half music. Nat Reese (God bless all 86 years of him) did a wonderful blues set, followed up by the Rockridge Brothers, Low Anthem and then some of the guys from Railroad Earth.
RRE on the Workshop Porch:http://www.archive.org/details/rre2010-07-23.workshop.cafs.16bit
Like I said, it's very intimate, I was sitting about 3 feet from the artists on the porch. the informal banter makes the Porch Series one of the best parts of FloydFest.
Back to the Main stage to see Deer Tick - borrowing an expression from the Millenial Generation - "Meh"
Konono No 1 took the Main Stage to kick off the evening lineup and put on a superb set. I had never seen anyone play the likembe thumb piano (similar to an mbira I think).
Ran across a new band that had a very cool sound - Papadosio. Kind of trancey, kind of electronica, heavy on the bass and drum beat, but definitely flavored with rock, albeit on the heavier side. They seemed the odd man out given the typical FloydFest lineup but the Hill Holler Stage was full of people jamming and dancing with these guys.
Papdosio - Global Village Stage Set:http://www.archive.org/details/papadosio2010-07-23.ca11s.16bit
Then it was back to the Main Stage for Friday's headliner. Railroad Earth did a very solid set but I thought it was a little mellow for a Friday night. If you are a RRE fan, you definitely would have liked the set.
RRE Main Stage:http://www.archive.org/details/rre2010-07-23.ca11s.16bit
Soulive then proceeded to pump all the energy the heat had sucked out of us back in and got Friday late night rolling.http://www.archive.org/details/soulive2010-07-23.ca11s.16bit
Then it was back to the Beer Garden for the Hackensaw Boys (and beer). By this time I had tracked down my friends from last year - the ice cream vendor with the vendor's pass - read as "Bottomless Beer Ticket", and went head to head with River Company Porter - a microbrew from Radford, VA. I won.
Every year I find a new favorite band I had never heard of before. Practically on the name alone -
The Pimps of Joytime.
These guys (and girl) were simply superb. The show on the archive doesn't even come close to capturing the energy.http://www.archive.org/details/pimpsofjoytime2010-07-24.ca11s.16bit
Go see them if you like a 70s funky, jazz sound with really slick jams. Stay at home if you don't.
Saturday shaped up to be the Music Marathon. Sol Driven Train kicked things off at 10 AM after 4 hours of sleep thanks to the Pimps of Joytime . William Walter & Co. followed on the Main Stage - he's fairly local and a crowd favorite. Like every year, I've now added him to the list of band's to go see if they are anywhere close to Va Beach. He put on a great show. Another dose of Holy Ghost Tent Revival and the Hackensaw Boys got the blood pumping.
Wayne Henderson did a Workshop Porch set and blew us away. He actually said he fancys himself a pretty good picker!!!!! And the Sistine Chapel has an okay mural painted on the ceiling or the Grand Canyon is just a hole in the ground. The story of him taking 10 years to make a guitar for Eric Clapton was epic.
Wayne has a finger picking style named after him - he wears a thumb pick and banjo finger picks and plays by picking a string on the down stroke with the thumb pick and simultaneously picking the string up with the finger pick. Sort of like "pinching" the string - it was phenomenal to watch and listen to. Definitely a FloydFest 9 highlight.
Then we tromped off to see Bearfoot. Kind of folky, kind of bluegrass, kind of indescribable but a great band. They are from Alaska and were kind of shocked at the heat. But they delivered an outstanding show with very melodic layerings of voice and instruments. Go see them if you get the chance.
Mountain Heart abso-frickin-lutely destroyed the Hill Holler Stage. Blend traditional bluegrass with the Allman Brothers and you get close to capturing their sound. They have a lot of clips on You Tube and are superb musicians. their banjo player doesn't have any whole fingers on his fretting hand - he frets with his tumb and a nub - and you would never know it listening to his licks. The dude is like 8 feet tall and looks like he should be on Orange County Chopper instead of playing in a band. Yet another Saturday highlight.
Running back and forth between stages we caught bits and pieces of Possum Jenkins, The Tennessee Boltsmokers and Dangermuffin again.
JJ Grey and Mofro kicked off the evening Main Stage sets with a blistering show. He was oking around with the crowd that it was hotter at FloydFest than it was back in his home in Florida. The crowd was starting to gather for Old Crow Medicine Show and JJ played in front of around 6000 people.http://www.archive.org/details/mofro2010-07-24.ca11s.16bit
Old Crow Medicine Show was up next - they're good, they're solid, they're talented, but IMO if you have seen them once, you have seen them 100 times. If you are a hormonal 16 year old girl you will like them even more.
The place was buzzing getting ready for the Levon Helm Band. His vocals were a bit rough - given his near death experience with throat cancer I suppose that was expected - but the show was outstanding. I can only hope that when I am his age I can pee when I am supposed to and not pee when I'm not supposed to. Most definitely a FF9 top 5 show. I heard someone say there were over 10000 people for his set but couldn't even begin to guess.
We had 15 minutes to catch our breath and head off to see Karl Denson's Tiny Universe - tons of energy and another great set.
Somehow catching a second wind we hoofed off down the hill once more to watch the Pimps of Joytime jam into the wee hours of Sunday morning.
All in all, Saturday was one of the best single days of music I've experienced in a long, long time.
We caught a break Sunday morning - they didn't really get going until 11 AM so the smart people got all their gear packed up and out to their cars in the remote lot and came back. Town Mountain, the Hackensaw Boys and Tennesse Boltsmokers got everyone going and we hit high gear for the clubhouse turn and home stretch. Mountain Heart about melted the Dreaming Creek Main Stage - you could sense people were getting themselves fired up for Grace Potter and the Nocturnals closing set.
You could have ended FF9 with Mountain Heart and it would have been worth it but it only got better.
The Hill Holler Stage was buzzing like a hornet's nest on front of Grace Potter. I was curious to see how her set would go over because of the barely contained chaos and energy she pours into her shows. Two years ago the Avett Brothers closed FloydFest 7 and it was an unmitigated disaster. I kind of thought you should close a 4 day festival with a band like Railroad Earth - a little lower key, a little mellower - everyone was exhausted, but with a band like RRE could walk away satisfied, exhausted, drained and filled all at the same time.
Listening to the Avett Brothers was acoustic waterboarding.
Anyway, I was wondering if FF9 had made the right choice by having GP&N close the weekend and as soon as Grace came prancing out on stage in her silver sparkly short shorts and started playing I knew they had made the right choice. I think Charlie Miller has recorded Grace and he can certainly speak to her talent, the band's talent and their collective energy. It was a great choice - she covered White Rabbit as one of her encores and it was chilling.http://www.archive.org/details/gpn2010-07-25.ca11s.16bit
Thoroughly spent, I climbed into my truck and drove home.
349 days until FloydFest 10 - but who's counting?
Dammit! - Will add pictures tonight. Oops.
This post was modified by Mandojammer on 2010-08-06 20:31:32
This post was modified by Mandojammer on 2010-08-17 16:21:32